Codemasters' latest takes us off-road once again

What does it take for a racing game to be interesting? Is it solid driving mechanics, cool cars, realism, great multiplayer or story? Dirt 3 offers all of these in a form that will be familiar to fans of the series, but it's the accessibility and inclusion of some nifty new features that set Dirt 3 apart from its predecessors. That and the exclusion of Colin McRae from the game's title, but that doesn't change the fact that Dirt 3 is committed to its cause: off-road racing. Few games manage to do what Codemasters' latest does so well, so let's first take a look at the bevy of game features.

The first thing you notice right away is how scalable the difficulty level is. When you start your career mode (dubbed ‘Dirt Tour'), the game suggests that you pick the ‘casual' difficulty and then subsequently tweak your settings to suit your level of play. If you're really bad at driving games, Dirt 3 will practically drive your machine for you, braking at corners, adjusting throttle and even help you steer. On the other hand, if you feel that Gran Turismo 5 is the easiest game you have ever played, you can switch off all assists and take to the dirt tracks of Kenya and snow-covered death traps of Finland at your own peril. Now, if you've performed this foolhardy act of switching all assists off, you've surely gone flying off a cliff or have managed to take a corner in a less-than-efficient manner, but fear not, because ‘flashbacks' are back. Introduced in Codemasters' Grid three years ago, flashbacks let you ‘rewind' the race using the game's instant replay function to a point where you have a chance to ‘make things right', but if you use this function in Dirt 3, it costs ‘rep' which is needed to unlock events. Other new features include the option to directly upload videos on youtube, a freestyle mode (‘Gymkhana') where players drive around obstacle courses performing stunts and multiplayer party modes that includes ‘transporter' (similar to ‘capture the flag') and a zombie mode (think vehicular zombie infection). While these new additions add a ‘fun' twist to the series, there's also a ‘hardcore' mode that restricts the player to using only the cockpit view with all driving aids switched off.

Dirt 3's multiplayer offering is as solid as ever, supporting up to eight players online or via system link as well as two players via split/screen. Players will be able to compete in the game's regular events as well as new freestyle game modes. In terms of visual appeal, Dirt 3 is a mixed bag. While the PC version looks drop-dead gorgeous with stunning visuals (thanks higher resolutions and DirectX 11 support), the colours in the PS3 version of the game look a little washed out. The game doesn't look bad by any standards, but the disparity in terms of appearance is a little surprising. Long-ish loading times are a downer on the PS3 version as well. At a significantly lower price tag of Rs. 699 (the console versions will cost you Rs. 2499), it would appear that the PC version of Dirt 3 is the one to own.

Dirt 3 is available for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Keywords: racing gamegamingDirt 3